AbstractThe study of ecosystem functioning – the role which organisms play in an ecosystem – is becoming increasingly important in marine ecological research. The functional structure of a community can be represented by a set of functional traits assigned to behavioural, reproductive and morphological characteristics. The collection of these traits from the literature is however a laborious and time-consuming process, and gaps of knowledge and restricted availability of literature are a common problem. Trait data are not yet readily being shared by research communities, and even if they are, a lack of trait data repositories and standards for data formats leads to the publication of trait information in forms which cannot be processed by computers. This paper describes Polytraits (http://polytraits.lifewatchgreece.eu), a database on biological traits of marine polychaetes (bristle worms, Polychaeta: Annelida). At present, the database contains almost 20,000 records on morphological, behavioural and reproductive characteristics of more than 1,000 marine polychaete species, all referenced by literature sources. All data can be freely accessed through the project website in different ways and formats, both human-readable and machine-readable, and have been submitted to the Encyclopedia of Life for archival and integration with trait information from other sources.